Each of us has two lives: our personal life and our professional life. You know, like the weekend vs. the rest of the week.

Some people say you are two different people: the You that is at work—and the You on your personal time. But I do not subscribe to that philosophy. I believe there is one true You.

If you know me, you know that a big part of my personality has always been that I want people to like me.

When I opened up an April issue of “Inc.” magazine recently, I was attracted to a two-page article entitled, “Management Playbooks: Reading business tomes by sports celebs is great fun. Oh, and you might learn something.” The article highlighted Phil Jackson’s bestseller “Eleven Rings” and how his most famous management trick was dealing with Chicago Bulls megastar Michael Jordan.

Jackson said, “I learned to dial my ego back without surrendering my authority.”

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Inc Magazine
Image from Inc. Magazine: Management Playbooks

Even though I am not a big sports fan, I learned that sports coaches are important in my life and I can learn a lot from them.

So, is it more important to be liked or to be respected?

I was made to face that very question many years ago. I was on a mother-daughter vacation with my friend Liz, and we got into a discussion about work and management styles each night over some wine after we spent time at the pool with our daughters during the day.

At that time, Liz ran a large retail store for a national chain and I could tell she was a no-nonsense kick-butt manager. She posed that exact question.

That was tough for me because I knew what I should answer. But, deep in my heart, I knew that my whole life had been spent making sure I was liked.

When we returned home, she lent me one of her favorite management books, “Wooden” by legendary basketball coach John Wooden. I’ve read a lot of management books in my life, but had never read one authored by a sports figure. It’s a short book and a quick read, so each night I would read a few chapters, allowing myself to soak in Coach Wooden’s management style.

I learned some of my most meaningful lessons from that book.

One of the first chapters was about how Coach Wooden instructed his players to put on their socks.

Yes, their socks.

The reason the socks were so important was that if a player put them on wrong, and there was a wrinkle in the sock when they put on their shoes, it could cause a blister while they were playing. A blister might affect their performance on the court, and ultimately the score.

A tiny little wrinkle in your sock may not sound like a big deal to most people, much like something basic in your job like promptly returning phone calls. But it can be the difference between winning and losing on the court, or making or breaking a sale in business.

I applied that lesson as a leader in both my personal and professional life. I made sure to mentor my team—and my kids—to learn the basics and to do them well. Accuracy first, and momentum will follow. My team and my kids may not like me very much for pointing out these little things to them to get right, but I realized that I could accept some people not liking me, and that as a leader, it truly was more important to be respected.

What lesson have you learned recently? Share with us in the comments so we can all learn something new!

Karen

One of the first jobs I had when I started working for my mom after college in the early 1980s was ordering and designing packaging.

And one of my projects was to look over our then-bagged Blackeyed Peas. We had introduced the “rehydrated dried, quick-cooking” Blackeyed Peas to the market in 1970, and it was about time we redesigned the package.

Before I could give direction to our design firm, my mom suggested I go visit the head of the Food & Drug Administration in Los Angeles, whose office was a few miles from our location in the Los Angeles Produce Market. She thought talking directly to the source was a good idea, plus it would give me a big picture view of what the FDA looks for in truth-in-packaging.

Old Blackeyed Pea Packaging
Our old Blackeyed Pea packaging

So, one afternoon, equipped with some packages of our Blackeyed Peas, I went down to see Mr. Lloyd Lehrer. And he taught me a lesson that I still use today:

“Even if you are in exact compliance with FDA and USDA regulations, you should always ask yourself: will the consumer be able to easily understand what your product really is?”

He was referring to the statement about our Blackeyed Peas that I mentioned earlier: “rehydrated dried, quick-cooking Blackeyed Peas.”

Our Blackeyed Peas were dried beans rehydrated so they looked like they were fresh. Because they looked fresh, we were obliged to be clear on the front panel of our package that they were indeed “rehydrated dried beans,” so a consumer would not think they were buying fresh beans.

I was reminded of this entire experience with the FDA when I read about the recent ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola.

POM Wonderful, the marketing geniuses who made pure pomegranate juice a household staple, asserted that Coca-Cola-owned Minute Maid was misleading consumers by labeling a juice blend made primarily of apple and grape juices as a pomegranate-blueberry juice blend.

Of course, POM had an interest in this particular labeling because the Minute Maid juice blend is considered a competitive product. But the lesson here is the same one I learned from the FDA, and it is worth repeating.

“Even if you are in exact compliance with FDA and USDA regulations, you should always ask yourself: will the consumer be able to easily understand what your product really is?”

As consumers, we are all aware of food products that are not exactly what they purport to be.  Sugar is called other names like sucrose, maltose, dextrose, and fructose, and salt content is listed as “unsalted” or “low-sodium.” Calorie counts are for “serving sizes,” not the entire package or can which we might typically consume.

As consumers, we are entitled to truth and simplicity when we purchase food and beverages. It should not be hard to figure out what we are consuming. I am quite pleased that the FDA is working on Nutrition Facts label reform for more practical serving sizes and clearer nutritional information.

Have you ever purchased a food product and discovered surprise ingredients? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Karen

You’ve probably noticed that some weeks I post a blog and some weeks I don’t. When I do, it’s because I have something important to say. When I don’t, it may be because my travel schedule has gotten out of hand or, more likely, because I don’t have something meaningful to write about.

I feel that it’s better to skip writing a blog post if it’s not going to make a difference to you, my readers. I know many bloggers post daily or weekly without fail—even when they don’t have something relevant to write about. I don’t see the point in that. It only wastes my time—and yours.

Fortunately, I’m not alone in this principle.

I was thumbing through the May issue of one of my favorite magazines, “Fast Company,” from the back as I was taught years ago by a very smart person from the University of New Mexico. I turned to page 112—the back page. It’s always an op-ed piece by Baratunde Thurston, author of the New York Times best seller, “How to be Black and CEO,” and co-founder of the creative agency, Cultivated Wit.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's On Karen's Plate? - Fast Company - A New Social Contract

His op-ed piece was entitled “A New Social Contract – What if brands stepped away from trying to be part of the conversation and made products worthy of being talked about?”

I loved what he had to say about companies that treat social media as if it were the same as advertising or public relations, instead of an honest conversation with consumers. His bottom line is: why don’t companies concentrate on making great products and services, rather than trying to have the “best” Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat strategy?

Baratunde says the best strategy is to make darn good products.

That’s how I see my blog. I only write when I have something important to say. I’m not just checking it off my list of things to do each week.

So, next time you don’t see a blog from me, don’t worry. It’s just me being honest and relevant.

Karen